UN agencies working to locate HIV patients displaced by post election violence

TOGO: UN agencies working to locate HIV patients displaced by post election violence

LOME, 30 May 2005 (PLUSNEWS) - Post-election violence has forced tens of thousands of Togolese to flee their homes, some of whom are living with AIDS and no longer have access to life prolonging anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment, the UN children's agency UNICEF said.

"We have started to identify people with HIV who fled from their homes without their medication," said Aicha Flambert, head of UNICEF in Togo.

"We hope the planned expansion of our system of epidemiological surveillance among the displaced will help us to track them and even show up new cases," she told PlusNews.

UNICEF could not confirm how many people living with AIDS had been forced to stop taking their drugs.

About six percent of Togo's five million population is HIV positive, according to a survey carried out in 2001.

The local association of people living with AIDS said in March that 2,500 people in Togo were taking ARV drugs, although 15,000 people would benefit from them.

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, over 34,000 people have fled to neighbouring Benin and Ghana since violence erupted after a controversial presidential election on 24 April.

Local non-governmental organisations and UN aid workers estimate a further 10,000 have been internally displaced within Togo since violent protests erupted when the government declared Faure Gnassingbe, a son of Togo's late president Gnassingbe Eyademak, to be the winner.

Opposition leaders claim the poll was rigged in Gnassingbe's favour and have accused the government of launching a campaign of persecution against known and suspected supporters of the opposition.


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